Eagles#039; offense may be their best defense

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

For the last two days Fort Dale Academy coach James "Speed" Sampley has been trying to think of a way to slow the Alabama Independent School Association's best running back.

And for the last few days, Sampley's best answer to Bessemer Academy's Walter Arrington is to keep him off the field.

"The only way to beat these folks is to keep their offense off the field as long as possible," he said.

Fort Dale jumps into area play this Friday by taking on defending AAA champions as the Eagles' home opener.

Both teams are coming off easy season-opening victories. Fort Dale had little trouble with knocking off Sparta Academy, 41-12, while Arrington rushed 24 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns in the

Rebels' 37-0 shutout win over Pickens Academy.

"He's something else," Bessemer Academy coach Mark Freeman said about Arrington. "He's a Barry Sanders type back. He's very elusive."

Arrington certainly isn't a type back that looks to run over linebackers or corners, but don't let his 5-foot-7, 165-pound frame fool you. Arrington ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the University of Alabama's football camp, and he followed up that performance by running a 4.46 at Auburn.

But Arrington isn't a big secret to any team in the state. He ran past opposing defenses as a sophomore to lead the Rebels to the AAA title.

"We know we're going to see eight or nine guys in the box, so we've got to throw it a bit to help our running game," Freeman said.

Quarterback Cory Patterson was 8-of-12 for 91 yards with one rushing

touchdown in his debut under center for Bessemer.

Still, running the ball has been Bessemer's bread and butter. The Rebels rushed for 318 yards against Pickens in their season opener. And it's easy to understand why Bessemer is so successful rushing the ball with the return of four veteran offensive linemen.

In fact the two Rebel guards dwarf their two teammates at the tackle position. Tyler Flack (6-3, 300) lines up at right guard, while Nathan Ellis (6-3, 285) is at the other guard position. Next to Flack is Tyler Harmon (6-2, 280), while Kanon Burt (6-4, 235) line up outside of Ellis.

But what impresses Sampley more about Bessemer is its defense.

"They have awful good team speed over there," he said.

The Rebels limited Pickens to 131 yards of total offense, with a majority of that total coming through the air.

And Freeman faces a Fort Dale passing game that was able to gain 175 yards against Sparta.

"It looks like this year we've got to stop the passing game," Freeman said. "They've got some good looking running backs, too, but they look harder to stop this year because they throw the ball so much better."